by Ann O'Neill
"During the celebrations held in Amman for my 80th birthday, my niece Christina read out a message she had brought from my brother, Colin. He wrote: 'In Jullunder we heard the gun salute for the death of the King Emperor George V and watched the gun smoke drift through the trees.' He ended his message with, 'It's a while since the gun smoke'. His words brought that day in January 1936 so vividly to life and evoked such memories of my youth in India.
It is a country I have loved since childhood. Throughout all my years and all my travels, it has never dimmed. The call of doves, scent of water on dust, or roadside dung fires and the brilliance of flowers brings India to my mind's eye.
It was many, many years before I was to return. As I came out of the airport into that hot, colourful, crowded, noisy scene I felt I had come home.FOREWORDAnn O'Neill's memoir, The Gun Smoke Still Lingers, is a thoughtful insight into her work and travels - a remarkable and inspiring account. I first knew Mrs O'Neill, or Miss Mackenzie as she was then, and Ize, as I nicknamed her soon after she arrived, in 1962, when I was ten years old.She came to Jordan initially as my governess and shortly afterwards took over as my private tutor.
It was mainly because of the way she was able to spark my interest in a variety of subjects that our lessons were far from dull. Ize helped me to discover the joys of reading, introducing me to classics such as Our Island Story and Scotland's Story by H.E. Marshall.
When later I started at Benenden, aged twelve and a half, the care and nurture that Ize provided as my guardian was a tremendous source of support to me and helped me settle into a new environment and way of life.Young Jordanians have also benefited from her superb teaching. Like me, they have been inspired by her commitment to live to the fullest potential and to strive to create positive change.When Ann eventually returned to Jordan she embraced it as her home, developing a deep knowledge of the country in every aspect, whether culturally, historically or geographically.Until this day, I cherish childhood memories of trips to the countryside with Ize to look for wild cyclamen and poppies. Her passion for wild flowers spurred her on adventurous expeditions off the beaten track to find and record Jordan's flora.The spirited appreciation of her surroundings characterizes the stories of her world wide journeys, and it is this that makes The Gun Smoke Still Lingers such an entertaining read.
The experiences, as well as the discoveries that Ize has made in Jordan, are also reflected in the remarkable collection of photographs from which she produces a unique brand of items that reflect her own take on the beauty and natural diversity of Jordan. She has strong feelings about the need to protect our natural environment from modern-day incursions.Together with a small group, Ann also commits time to working among both Iraqi and Syrian refugees. The team places a strong emphasis on visiting and getting to know the families.It gives me tremendous pleasure and pride to recommend this fascinating glimpse into the journeys of Ann O'Neill, my life-long friend.
Through all the phases of her work among both Jordanians and non-Jordanians she has earned appreciation and respect. Moreover, she has become a part of the fabric of Jordan on which she continues to make her mark.HRH Princess Basma bint Talal